Traveling While Single

Twice during my travels this past month, my ring finger was commented on.

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This one.

Because that’s a thing strangers get to do, apparently.

The first was on my first flight of the entire trip, when I happened to be wearing no jewelry. After chatting about his granddaughter and my nephew for a few minutes, he nodded toward my left hand and said, “So what are you waiting for?”

What am I waiting for?

The second was at my hosts’ when we had some new neighbors over for the evening. I had dressed up a little, slipped on a Celtic knot ring I often wear. Sitting around the table, the neighbor’s dad, who was in town visiting, nodded at my left hand and said, “You’re an engaged woman.”

Am I?

I wonder whether men’s jewelry or lack thereof is ever commented on. And while I can forgive both incidents as small talk or outright curiosity (or in the second case, perhaps symbolism for my Celtic knot that I’m unaware of), the fact remains that my marital status is not only noticed and noted. It’s vocally addressed.

I don’t get to be single and traveling or engaged and traveling without explaining myself.

I don’t get to be a woman alone in the world without explaining myself.

I don’t get to be happy or miserable or strong or weak or self-possessed or confused while solo without explaining myself.

And while I answered the first man, “I travel too much to have married yet,” and the second, “No, this is just what I wear to avoid people commenting on my marital status,” the fact is, neither of them needed to know.

Because I’m a minority. I’m suspect. I’m a single woman in her early 30s. A single woman traveling alone.

So what am I waiting for? Nothing, actually. That’s why I travel alone. Imagine what I wouldn’t have experienced if I had waited until I were married to see the world. I’m an engaged woman? Well, sure I am, engaged with the world and experiences around me.

And while I’d love to find a guy who wants to travel with me the rest of our lives, I’m not going to stop doing what I do to wait around for him. This is my life, not a potential “his,” and certainly not the strangers’ who seek an account for existing the way I am.

All I am is unmarried. Is that really so hard to fathom?

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8 thoughts on “Traveling While Single

  1. Dude, I wouldn’t be teaching in China if I had waited for Mr. Right. I’ve had friends ask me how I feel about (re)marriage. All I know now is that I’m much more content and at peace with my life being single than I was married…and if God has someone for me, great. If not, I’m living life and engaging in great friendships. Christ has made me whole and complete without a man.

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    • Liz, I love this! “Living life and engaging in great friendships.” So true! I always think of 1 John 4:12: “…if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” Here’s to finding perfect complete love from the people God has given us to love.

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  2. Actually, according to a book I’m reading (“All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation” by Rebecca Traister), you’re part of a growing cohort of women who are unmarried and making a difference in the world. I’m about halfway through, but I recommend the book. I think you’d find it interesting and encouraging. You are not alone.

    p.s. I could totally see “An Engaged Woman” as a magazine essay. I love the way you spun it around. (That’s what reminded me of Traister’s book – one of her main points is that social change is often spurred and realized by unmarried women.) I’d suggest starting with the Celtic knot story and then elaborating on the idea of what is means to be a woman engaged with the world. Maybe weave in language of courtship to talk about how you fell in love with travel, writing, etc. Then consider, if you were married or engaged to a partner, how would that change your engagement with the world? I would totally buy a magazine for that article, and I bet a lot of others would, too.

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    • I’ll definitely have to see if my library has that book. I think it’s already on my to-read list, actually! And thank you for the encouragement to write a piece like this. Hopefully no one will see your comment and beat me to it. 😉

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  3. I don’t know if it should make you feel better or worse, but it happens to men too. I’ve been asked A lot about when I was getting married, what I’m waiting for, if I have kids, when I’m going to have kids, etc.

    This is compounded by the fact that I am now married but do not wear a ring because of job-related safety issues.

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    • I admit I’m surprised you get the ring comments too. Is it a generational thing maybe? My peers don’t tend to call it out; I usually get it from an older generation.

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